Ready to Run Changing the Landscape of Regional Politics

Dec 5, 2011
            Research shows that women who hold public office focus more on issues of concern to women, children, and disadvantaged groups of citizens; build more consensus; and are more connected to their constituents than their male counterparts; according to Jean Wahl Harris, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Political Science Department at The University of Scranton.

            Dr Harris also noted that statistics prove that women are strikingly underrepresented in local, state and national government and that Pennsylvania has one of the nation’s lowest proportions of women holding public office . With a 17-percent representation in the state legislature, Pennsylvania ranks 41st out of 50 states.

             In response to that need, The University of Scranton will host its inaugural Ready to Run™ conference on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, in partnership with the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University. Presenters, including former U.S. Representative Marjorie Margolies from Pennsylvania, will offer targeted training to women who want to run for office or get involved with public life. The nonpartisan conference also welcomes men and women who are interested in supporting women candidates and their campaigns.

             “This conference is about empowerment,” said Dr. Harris. “You can’t be elected if you don’t run. Even well qualified women are hesitant to run, unless they are encouraged.” She predicted that if women can get over the hurdle of deciding to run, there will be a snowball effect, and “it won’t be long until Pennsylvania exceeds the 40-percent representation that we see today in states with the highest proportion of women state legislators.”

            Dr. Harris emphasized that women offer a lot more to government than just narrowing the gender gap in representation. “Women have different priorities than men,” she explained. “Generally speaking, while men see government as a career, women enter politics to address a specific area of concern. They tend to focus on issues that affect women, children and disadvantaged people. That motivation also explains why women who hold office in local and state government often don’t seek national positions; they prefer working in the government where their efforts will have the greatest impact.”

            According to Dr. Harris, research shows that even though this is still a man’s world in terms of power, businesses with a greater proportion of women in leadership positions are generally more successful. CAWP asserts that women have gained experience working with people who have different opinions – a valuable skill for reaching across the boardroom, as well as the political aisle.

            “It isn’t a stretch to conclude that a government body with a higher proportion of women would be more successful advocating the interests of its constituents,” said Dr. Harris.

            For those reasons, The University of Scranton is offering Ready to Run, to encourage women to run and ensure that they are ready to run. Dr. Harris and many of her colleagues see more women in government as a win-win situation for women and those they represent.

            For additional information about the Ready to Run, visit

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